I recently attended a conference in Philadelphia and participated in Kari Bo’s pelvic floor exercise group and attended other workshops where Kari was speaking and available to answer questions. Kari Bo is a highly regarded researcher who has provided so much quality evidence about pelvic floor exercise over the years. She has published research which tells us that we should do 3 sets of 8 to 12 maximum voluntary contractions each day to strengthen muscles. She tells us that when we do those best effort contractions of the muscles, it doesn’t matter too much about breathing pattern.
But, if you can only tighten your pelvic floor by doing an huge intake of breath, then it is highly likely that you are not targeting the pelvic floor to gain a “maximum voluntary contraction” for training purposes.
In every day life, you also need to be able to do a pelvic floor contraction whilst you do other things such as lifting, exercising, coughing, sneezing, laughing, dancing etc etc. So, for this, you of course need to be able to tighten the pelvic floor muscles and keep breathing freely and evenly. If this information is confusing or you don’t know what you are doing then you should find help from a trained Physio to give you a one to one lesson. If you don’t know what it means to do a maximum contraction versus a more gentle contraction whilst you bring the shopping bags in for example, then you come book an appointment for assessment. For many people, this is a simple one off visit. You need to be sure you are doing the right thing and it has been shown that if you read instructions, 4 out of 10 people will not necessarily being exercising correctly. Rest assured, pelvic floor exercise is easy once you know how.